Glaciers one Penguins nil

Sunday 19th Feb

Since we’ve been on this trip we’ve not seen the news and rarely heard the radio. What few events we’d kept up with were through conversations with folks here, messages and face timing the kids and friends from back home and snippets picked up online as and when we can get wifi. Friends and family on the other side of the world knew more about the forest fires raging around Christchurch than we did and we’d driven past it four days ago, plus into it tonight to play the Christchurch Folk Club.

Martin (the very nice man who’d booked us) was telling us how the fire wasn’t very far from where he lived. He’d had to put together an evacuation plan as they could smell smoke and a change of wind direction could have sent the fire his way. He’d already moved some items from his own and his neighbour’s house to safe ground. It seemed, however, that as of tonight the fires were extinguished, although several roads were still closed and large areas evacuated, while the fire brigade continued to monitor hot spots.

The folk club meets in the Christchurch Irish Centre, a big wooden building (the fire talk made us nervous) with great acoustics. As with many of these events, you get to watch a well-oiled machine in action. There was an empty hall when we arrived and then the team got to it. A box-section stage appeared and was set up, the PA system was wheeled out of a cupboard, followed by a lightning rig. Tables and chairs are brought out, the tables are then covered with table cloths and candles are added for effect (please be careful when lighting the candles). All of this done by volunteers for bugger all money, just the love of music.

I (Dave) was chatting with Pete one of the sound engineers (always make friends with the sound man!) about music; he was telling me about bands he’s played in and a project he’s currently working on. He’s playing Bob Dylan in a staging of “The Last Waltz”, the brilliant film about the final performance by The Band. What a great thing to do! The other chap on sound was Steve. He plays banjo in a bluegrass band, so that put paid to all the banjo jokes (never piss off the sound man). Both smashing blokes, a treat to work with and they did a really good job. We were quite pleased with the turn out, it was about two thirds full but Martin was disappointed. He was very kind and said it was a great concert and we deserved a bigger crowd. But as hardly anyone has ever heard of us over here, we’re always surprised when anyone shows. 

They have a Lincoln near Christchurch and Lincoln City are our local football team back home.

(Shit photo but what do you expect at 60mph with a hangover?)

We got chatting to a Dutch guy (Johan) about Lincoln City. He’s lived over here for many years but still follows football and he’s been keeping up with Lincoln’s amazing FA Cup run. He also told us he was going to see Bruce Springsteen in Christchurch in a couple of weeks (Bruce isn’t playing the Irish Centre, I think he’s doing an acoustic set in a local Italian restaurant, followed by an open mic at the YMCA). Johan gave us a bag of plums and bought two CDs. That’s a great night by our standards. (I bet Bruce doesn’t get plums!)

We were packed up and back on the road by 10.15pm and had planned to get a couple of hours driving in toward the west coast before getting our heads down. However it turned into a nasty night for driving; the cloud blew in very low and visibility was bad. We did a little over an hour, found a pull in off the highway and called it a night.

On Monday morning the sun was shining and we set off toward Arthur’s Pass, the road through the southern alps. We live in Lincolnshire where flat is done with remarkable accuracy – we really can make mountains out of mole hills. As such the scenery here messes with our heads; it’s amazing. Every other sentence goes “bloody ‘ell look at that” or “wow that’s incredible” and on and on…..

Taken through a bug-splattered windscreen this photo shows a redirected waterfall and a falling rock shelter. These came just after Deaths Corner. It’s not a drive for those of a nervous disposition.

We stopped off in Kamara for a coffee and the worlds most chewiest (it is a word, look it up) doughnuts. The doughnuts didn’t taste too bad but it took an enormous amount of energy to chew them, which we firmly believe made them a very healthy option (they don’t call us Mr & Mrs FitasFuck for nothing!). We also paid 16 dollars for a shitting little bottle of environmentally-friendly, utterly sodding useless, sandfly repellent. A word of advice dear reader. When dealing with sandflies, stuff the environment and break out the chemicals. The horrible blood-sucking beasties love the shite that that doughnut-baking, musilee-snorting, moccasin-wearing hippie suckered us into buying. It’s rubbish.

“I’ve never seen a glacier before, have you?” said Kip looking at the map. “No” says I. There begins a two hour drive followed by an hour and a half walk to see the Franz Josef Glacier. I don’t know who Franz Josef is or was, but he makes exceedingly good glaciers. It was well worth the drive and the walk as the Glacier was in; it was there in full view (are you reading this Penguins?). It didn’t bugger off for a swim. This was a Glacier that knew its place and fullfilled its duty.

We got back to the van feeling fulfilled, elated and knackered.

(Okay, so they do call us Mr & Mrs FitasFuck for nothing!)

The view from where we’ve parked up tonight.